New Deal Coalition Retained Pt II: World on Fire
A TL By the Congressman
A TL By the Congressman
Here's the original
5:40 AM, November 13, 1988
Good morning, America. This is Tom Brokaw with NBC news. I wish this were just a nightmare, that I was to wake up in several hours and find this to be just a figment of a troubled mind. But sadly, it is not.
Just seven hours ago, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and their combined allies have declared war on the United States of America. Already the Red Army has begun to assault across Europe, while NBC can confirm Paraguay and Iraq have been invaded by Warsaw Pact forces in the wee hours of the morning. Early reports on the ground have indicated that chemical munitions are being used, ones more deadly than those employed by Congolese forces prior to the Siege of Kinshasa...
[Inaudible chatter from his ear mic]
This just in, we are cutting out to a live message from President Rumsfeld.
[screen cuts out to a blackened background, President Rumsfeld sitting in the center]
"My fellow Americans, I come to you from an undisclosed location for my safety and the safety of the American government in these times of crisis.
"It is with a heavy heart to say that we have begun air, land, and sea operations against the USSR and their Warsaw Pact Allies. We did not seek this fight out, and despite every diplomatic effort General Secretary Kryuchkov has decided upon the course of armed conflict. He has started it, but we will finish it.
"By emergency order by the Executive Branch, I have ordered the Department of Defense to re-institute the draft. I do not wish this, but it is necessary. Victory will be ours, ours and our allies. The Soviet Government will find out the depth of American resolve and the heat of American fire..."
[feed cuts off to a frazzled Tom Brokaw; Air raid sirens heard in the background]
Forgive me, but we have just been notified that Washington DC is soon to be under direct assault by Russian long-range bombers. Pray for us.
"Today is the beginning of World Socialism's glorious victory over the imperialists and capitalists of the West. We will win! We will save our species! The Soviet Union will bring about a new age in humanity upon our victory, and we call upon the United States and all other nations to throw off the shackles of their dominant class and join us in the Revolution."
-General Secretary Kryuchkov-
"Do you hear that sound, patriots! That is the sound of Soviet bombers assaulting Holy American soil! Washington, New York, Boston, Miami, and Newport News have all reported raids. Not since the perfidy of the southern Mexican swine did a foreign power touch our sacred ground! Rise up! Rise up to join our brothers overseas to repel this Russian menace. Together, we shall burn Moscow to the ground. Burn Rio! Burn Buenos Aries! Burn Tehran! Burn Warsaw! Burn Leningrad! Burn them all and send their godless souls to hell! We shall win! We shall be victorious! We will be free, or die trying!"
-Excerpt of the New Day with Congressman John G. Schmitz radio program, November 13, 1988-
---------------------------Among all the simulated war scenarios, one constant in every single offensive war plan was closing the Atlantic. Looking to the German strategies of World War Two and how close they came to breaking the backs of the British war effort, it was felt by Stavka that the demands of modern warfare and the reach of modern air power made the importance of the United States even more vital to NATO's war machine. The Soviet Navy had invested greatly into long range commerce raiding, namely a powerful submarine fleet and land-based Naval Air Arm - carrier aviation was strong with three Ulyanovsk-class super-carriers and five Kiev-class VTOL aviation cruisers, but this was seen as more a preventative defensive measure against the far more powerful NATO naval fleet. When the Politburo made war the national policy, the Soviet Navy put the long-term offensive strategies into place.
In the wee morning hours of November 13th, the long-range Soviet bases in Brazil launched raids on the American eastern seaboard. Forty Tupolev Tu-16 "Badger" bombers hit Miami, Washington, Norfolk, New York, and Boston with specially designed cruise missiles on various military and civilian targets. Damage was light, although the terror caused was immense and one missile took a large chunk out of the Capitol Building (luckily while virtually no one was there). American homeland defense fighters exacted a terrible vengeance, destroying twenty-six of the Badgers and damaging seven more.
However, the raid succeeded in its primary objective: causing massive terror and forcing the Americans to keep its attention directed at protecting the homeland. The North Atlantic was open for the Soviets to launch their initial masterstroke. Operation Arctic Fist.
One of the main strategic airbases for NATO, Iceland and Keflavik Air Force Base were absolutely vital for the NATO war effort. They served as the linchpin for the SOSUS anti-submarine defensive line that swept across the North Atlantic from Scotland, the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. A very common Soviet war plan was capturing Iceland, thus opening up the Denmark Strait for their submarines and most of the Atlantic north of the Shetlands for their bomber routes to attack supply convoys. Only a few hours after the Eastern Seaboard Raids, sixty Badger bombers swept in and laid the defenses in Keflavik to waste at the cost of only seven of their number, making it useless as a staging ground for fighters.
Behind them, massive transport craft hauled over fifteen hundred elite Soviet Airborne Infantry of the 106th Guards Airborne Division. Led personally by General Alexander Lebed, they took advantage of the decreased defenses to land at Keflavik (along with a smaller force of 150 to capture the small NATO air and submarine reserve base at Qaqortoq, Greenland). Fighting between the Soviets and the defending US Marines and Air Force units was fierce, but the sheer size of the Soviet force and the devastation from the Badger sortie made the result a foregone conclusion.
The first main Soviet operation of the war was a stunning success, Iceland and the southern tip of Greenland secure with minimum casualties. Supplies were immediately offloaded to assist with the operation, due to the presence of two merchant vessels under a Danish flag but really operated by the Soviet Merchant Marine. These armored vehicles and heavy weapons would go a long way to Iceland being secured after only two days. The Icelandic Prime Minister would surrender the nation on November 15, commanding Air Force Lt. General Chuck Horner becoming one of the many POWs. A small detachment of Marines under one Major James Mattis would escape into the Icelandic countryside and provide NATO forces with eyes on the ground, but their adventures are a topic for later.
Almost immediately, Soviet submarine forces poured through the Denmark Strait and into the waters of the North Atlantic, ready to do their part in winning the war. The first punch had been landed, and America was sent back reeling.
---------------------------1:15 PM, December 1st, 1988
Prague, Czech Federal Republic
“Identified! Contact front!” Cursing under his breath, H. R. McMaster wished that he had a better firing position. The dug out gravel pit in an industrial park didn’t provide the best cover – his initial position inside a gutted factory was much better, but napalm-equipped Su-24 Fencer strike fighters made him and those in his company hunkered there bug out or get roasted alive. ‘Fucking Commies.’ “T-72 at two o’clock! Sabot!”
“Got it!” Chambers hooted as Rubio thrust the depleted uranium dart shell into the breech, shutting it with a clang.
“On the way!” The gun boomed, gout of flame scorching the ground in front of the dug in M-1 Haig. Soon after the T-72 erupted in smoke and fire, turret blown clear off as ammunition cooked off – Chambers worked a perfect shot, right between the join of the turret and the body.
McMaster hooted. “Take that, fuckers!” In the last weeks, the crew had morphed from green into hardened vets, operating like a well-honed machine. Fluidly, a HEAT round made its way into the breech to smite a BMP infantry carrier to hell.
Even through the thick carapace, the low clang of a wrench on a shell casing was heard loud and clear. “GAS!” Immediately the crew secured all hatches, sealing the Haig tightly against the outside elements. Throwing away every single taboo since the end of WWI, the Warsaw Pact had no compunctions about saturating the battlefields from the East German/Polish border to the Czech capitol with mustard, Phosgene, or Sarin gas. Nerve gasses were the worst – while the tank was usually secure against the dangerous chemicals, the poor infantry only had their NBC suits against impending death or pain.
“Contact front!” With the gas barrage, the Soviets were pushing hard. “Sabot!” McMaster watched the T-80 zig zag across the battered ground. “Fire!”
“On the way!” The shell hit right in the glacis plate, and didn’t go through. “Fuck!”
“HEAT!” At that moment the T-80 fired, decapitating the tank directly to McMaster’s right. “Fire!” Hitting the side armor, Chambers avenged their fallen brothers.
And the battle for Prague continued.
All across the Free Empire of Germany, as the guns at the border erupted in an orgy of battery and counterbattery fire – the skies crisscrossing with thousands of planes dueling in the skies above – citizens and soldiers alike quivered and waited for the hammer blow to come. Many were old enough to remember the Red Army advance into the Third Reich in 1945 and the sheer brutality of it, terror spreading that it would happen again. Millions of Germans prepared to heed their Kaiser and their Chancellor to fight for their freedom and their spiritual liberation… only for the blow not to come.
Despite the furious air combat engaging between NATO and the Soviet Air Force (which was largely fought to a draw in the first month, neither side able to penetrate too far behind the other’s airspace), no massive Soviet assault into the Fulda Gap was seen. Instead, the initial assaults involved river crossings and a general advance from Mecklenburg towards the outskirts of Hamburg. The move made little sense for Colin Powell and other NATO commanders until they glanced at the initial Soviet assaults in other fronts. For Defense Minister Pyotr Demichev and Marshal Sergey Solokov, the entire front through Poland and East Germany was threatened by what was called the “Hapsburg Salient.” Named because it corresponded to the heart of the formerly Hapsburg-ruled Austro-Hungarian Empire, it consisted of Austria and the Czech Federal Republic and was one of the most heavily fortified areas in all of NATO. If STAVKA launched any invasion of the German Empire it would only expose their underbelly in Poland to furious NATO counterattack. Thus, it had to be neutralized.
As soon as war was declared the 1st and 8th Guards Armies, along with the bulk of the Polish military, launched Operation Tukhachevsky (joined by three other Soviet armies to the south). Together, they assaulted NATO lines in central Czechia and southeastern Austria, pushing the collected American/French/Czech/Austrian/Canadian forces back into the inner defensive belts. Their goals were Prague and Vienna. If the capital cities fell, then the entire salient would be indefensible. American General Fredrick Franks, the overall NATO commander, knew that as well. Anchoring his flanks with his strongest units, he hoped to lure the Soviets into assaulting Prague directly – a move Soviet Czechoslovakian Front commander Boris Gromov initially launched in the face of heavy casualties.
A breakthrough was finally achieved by the 1st Guards Army west of the city against the French military presence. Under saturation from gas and rocket artillery, a feint on Kladno closer in to the city diverted French attention before the 47th Motor Rifle Division blasted through twenty-five miles to the west. Line commanders screamed for reserves to be committed, but a snafu in the French command tent caused the armored units to arrive too late, and Soviet armor was already pouring through the gap. Faced with intense Polish attacks on the eastern flank, General Franks deemed the situation untenable and ordered the entire salient to begin a fighting withdrawal to the Sudetenland.
Intense criticism would be leveled at Franks and the NATO commanders for the defeat at Prague and the subsequent fighting withdrawal to the Pilsen-Passau-Salzburg Line by Valentine’s Day, but in reality there was no other choice. Determined Soviet assaults and the entrapment of 70,000 Austrian troops in the Vienna pocket (they would surrender in May after a protracted siege) made the entire Hapsburg Salient essentially bare to destruction, and with 500,000 troops and the bulk of the Czech Army saved there was no better move. France would be in an uproar after the debacle of its commanders, and Mitterrand would struggle to find a general with enough combat experience to replace the weakened command structure. In the end, one was found in former President of the Council Jacques Massu. Aged and retired, nevertheless he once again answered his country’s call and took over as supreme commander in the field, causing French morale to skyrocket.
With the Federal Republic and most of Austria secured, the Soviets shifted their main winter focus to Italy. Intense chemical weapons barrages and a naval infantry landing that captured the island city of Venice made the Venetian defense line anchored on the Isonzo River untenable for the Italian Army, leading to Soviet/Yugoslav/Hungarian forces smashing through on January 7th. The flat plains of Venetia proved excellent terrain for blitzkrieg, and the Warsaw Pact made it as far as Padua before an Italo-British counterattack (an entire British mechanized corps had been dispatched to reinforce the North Italy front) pushed them back and stabilized the frontline at Treviso on February 21st.
Massive victories under their belt, STAVKA began putting forces into place for the Spring offensive into the German Empire. Free from any distractions or minor fronts elsewhere in Europe, all geared for the coming storm.
The second prong of the initial Soviet strategy occurred in the Balkans. Anchored to the bulk of the European Warsaw Pact members was the Kingdom of Greece, conservative to the core and a loyal NATO country. Ruled by a military junta since the late sixties, the coming of Soviet Focoist aggression caused it to go into a military expansion – only coupled by the addition of Italian troops to the extensive defenses by the Berlinguer government. Planners in Moscow realized that the cradle of democracy served as a dagger to the heart of their allies, allies vital to the war effort. If Bulgaria or Yugoslavia were knocked out of the war, crucial manpower would have to be diverted from other fronts and could cause the collapse of the entire plan, something STAVKA couldn’t allow. Luckily for them, the Bulgarian Army had a powerful reinforcement in the form of Romania.
Controlled for decades by the indomitable Nicolae Ceausescu, the Romanian Army had transformed with Soviet help into one of the premier fighting forces in the Warsaw Pact. Mostly conscript like the vast majority of armies in the Soviet style, they boasted a small but elite force of professionals that Ceausescu deployed to the Greek border under the command of General Vasile Milea. Backed up by several regiments of Soviet fighters (bolstering the nearly entire Bulgarian and Romanian Air Forces), as well as the Soviet Black Sea Fleet that was granted access to the Aegean by the neutral Turkish government, on the 13th a wave of artillery fire erupted along the entire border. Saturation shelling with VX gas punched several holes into the border defenses, holes that the Romanians quickly exploited.
Despite the built up defenses and the advantage to the joint Italo-Greek defenders given by the mountainous terrain of the Attic countryside, the sheer mass of Soviet air and naval power allowed the Bulgarian, Albanian, and Romanian forces to advance steadily. Thessaloniki fell quickly to the Bulgarians, while Romanian mechanized forces routed the Italian third corps to capture Larissa. Hopes were to hold the Warsaw Pact at the approach to Attica but a Romanian heliborne assault in early December turned the defenses at Thermopylae and captured the island of Euboa. The victory broke the back of the new defensive line, caused the capture of over 50,000 NATO troops cut off in the north, and brought the front line to only 25 miles from Athens itself.
Romanian troops fighting in the mountains of central Greece.
Romanian troops fighting in the mountains of central Greece.
With Athens on the verge of being captured, Greek Prime Minister Nikolaos Makarezos and Italian Expeditionary Force-Greece commander Lt. General Domenico Corcione both ordered an evacuation of NATO forces across the Corinth Canal while a powerful Greek force hunkered down in Athens to fight house to house and room to room. While many ground commanders were itching to capture the historic city, General Milea was unwilling to expend the lakes of blood needed to take Athens or the Peloponnesus. Better to let NATO expend supplies and manpower for them, a plan agreed to by STAVKA. Bringing in heavy artillery, the Siege of Athens began on Christmas Day, testing the depths of Greek resolve to the very core.
Admiral Sergey Gorshkov had a vision of a truly great Soviet blue water navy. Compared to the mighty US and Royal navies that ruled the ocean waves, the maze of weak ships and commerce raiding submarines were a disappointment outclassed even by the pre-Massu French fleet. Despite constant pressure and begging, Nikita Khrushchev refused to allow a naval expansion – he believed it was a boondoggle and waste of money. All of this changed with Vladimir Semichastny taking over as General Secretary. The hardliners saw a large Navy not as flushing funds down the toilet but as a vital need for power projection. Hopes for a global communist empire precipitated on a large and powerful blue water navy, and thus began the massive naval expansion.
By the start of World War III, the Soviet Navy was the third largest in the entire world (60% of the US Navy and only barely beaten out by the Royal Navy). The largest branch was still the submarine forces, matching Soviet war doctrine to close the Atlantic by any means necessary. However, the surface fleet found the biggest expansion with the laying down of dozens of cruisers and destroyers, including four Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers armed to the brim with missiles and designed to counter America’s California-class and the Royal Navy’s Lion-class nuclear cruisers. The biggest step though was in naval aviation. While in the past it had been primarily land-based, Gorshkov managed to wrangle through the Politburo the approval to build four Kiev-class “aviation cruisers.” Effectively missile-armed light carriers, each carried twelve VTOL fighters. But this wasn’t enough, and they were joined by three supercarriers along the lines of the American Enterprise-class or British Hood-class – the Ulyanovsk, Red October, and Kursk.
While a large fleet, there were no illusions that the Royal Navy and US Navy could both outgun and outfly them. If NATO decided to assault the Soviet Arctic coast and the Barents Sea, there was nothing they could really do. Therefore, STAVKA decided the best defense was offense and a gamble was required. Defense Minister Demichev wasn’t keen on risking their carriers or strategic bombers (all staffed by elite forces), but he was persuaded by the aging Gorshkov that there was no other way to secure both Iceland and the northern seas. Predictably, the NATO carrier group under the command of Vice Admiral Randy Cunningham, Rear Admiral John McCain, and Rear Admiral Stanly Woodward began advancing towards the Faroe Islands. With northern Norway assaulted and captured by Soviet Naval Infantry, the Norwegian Sea passage was all that was available to them and the Soviets were ready. The sizable fleet of 7 fleet carriers was matched by the entire Soviet offensive blue water strike force.
Together, the forces were evenly matched in terms of carrier aircraft – the NATO fleet had less fighter strength but each F-14 Hellcat II had a larger missile capacity and a more effective firing range so it equalized. A just carrier on carrier battle would have been a NATO advantage due to a more effective missile defense, but the Soviets had a secret weapon. While the fighters assaulted each other – leading to a volley of American and British missiles that cruised to hit the Soviet ships – a mass of 150 Badger and Backfire strategic bombers arrived on scene from their bases in the Kola Peninsula and added their missile load to the fray.
Despite a valiant effort from British Harrier jets and French Crusader fighters kept behind as carrier air patrol, the Soviet Backfires and Badgers managed to loose 250 Kingfish anti-ship missiles at the fleet. Cunningham ordering evasive maneuvers, the fleet’s two Omaha Beach-class AEGIS missile cruisers managed to down 112 with their precise anti-air capacity – further SAMs and close in weapons systems aboard the remaining ships added 90 more, but the remainder reached the fleet with catastrophic results. Forrestal and Charles Martel were covered in flames and would sink, while Richard M. Nixon, John Paul Jones, and HMS Ark Royal were damaged to various extents. A total of ten ships were sunk and 5,000 killed in the greatest American naval disaster since Pearl Harbor. NATO’s naval offensive capability was crippled indefinitely.
Despite grievous losses of their own, the Soviet Navy was jubilant. Through their elite land-based air arm and rigorous training for the mission, they had taken on the renown US and Royal navies and won a massive victory. Both the Red October and the two undamaged aviation cruisers would stay in the region to ward off any further NATO incursion while the damaged ships headed to Murmansk for refitting. Meanwhile, Admiral McCain took over command of the fleet and ordered them back to Southampton for the same. The Pentagon would look over the results with worry. With the Royal Navy needed to secure other sea lanes the only option was a massive transfer of naval assets from the Pacific – doable due to China sitting out the war and the Soviets unenthusiastic about launching attacks from Vladivostok. However, the assets would take months to move in force.
The convoys were therefore on their own till at least the spring.
-------------------Hands shaking, Donald Rumsfeld took more time than one would think to readjust his glasses. His hair was already greying more now than it had in his entire first term. The Oval Office felt like a prison cell - but at least it was better than the inhuman bunkers the Secret Service had whisked him too. NORAD fighter squadrons had ensured no more raids hit the east coast from South America, one of the few pluses going for NATO since the war began.
And now he was faced with one of the consequences of those losses. "Is this the only way, George?"
"Yes, Mr. President," said a grim-faced George Bush. The Secretary of Defense was the only official from the Pentagon here, all general officers otherwise indisposed on more pressing matters. "Our generals have said that we will gain effectiveness with this course of action, and deny the Soviets any advantage. In war, sir, we cannot unilaterally disarm ourselves."
Rumsfeld's heart sank. "I know, but can this decision still be right?" He didn't want to do it. God, how could he face his grandchildren after this order.
"The orders forbid them from being used against civilians, something I doubt the enemy would copy." Bush sighed. The defeat at Prague and Venetia had already seen much of the landscape poisoned from the deadly gasses - civilians making up 80% of the casualties. "Mitchell and Mitterrand have already greenlit their use by the British and French armies, and I know the Germans, Italians, and Chileans have already used them in battle. They don't have the stockpiles to match the Red Army. We do."
"May our children forgive us." Pen scribbling on the bottom of the document, President Rumsfeld authorized US ground forces to employ chemical weapons in combat.
--------------------The odd man out in the Warsaw Pact was Communist Portugal. Essentially an island of red in a sea of NATO blue, most analyses by laymen and experts on both sides would write it off as the first Warsaw Pact nation to fall come a war. Falangist Spain - now a democracy - was acutely aware of the threat and kept a strong military presence on the border. They were ready to launch an immediate offensive as soon as war was declared, and thusly defenses were largely neglected.
This presented an opportunity for STAVKA. While they doubted Portugal would hold it's own against NATO assault unless a complete collapse occurred in Europe (after the marginalization of the Italian Communist Party and Libya shirking on its alliances, there was little chance), holding the naval and airbases maintained since the Portuguese Crisis as long as possible and essentially knocking Spain out of the war loomed large as a proper objective. Throughout the 70s and 80s, especially after the December Coup, the Red Army sent in massive amounts of equipment to the Portuguese military and its own powerful corps-sized military unit (five divisions). If they were going to lose, they would lose under a blaze of glory.
In a twist of irony - seen by many as bigotry on STAVKA's part - the vast majority of the Soviet ground forces in Portugal were from the Caucasus and Central Asian Republics. Though the decision had been made nearly a decade before, both Kryuchkov and Demichev considered these soldiers expendable. Well, more expendable than the average Russian/Ukrainian/Belorussian conscript. It was commanded by Armenian Colonel General Norat Ter-Grigoryants, who in the year leading up to the commencement of hostilities had planned extensively with Portuguese General Secretary Alvaro Cunhal and Ground Forces Commander Sagueiro Maia for an immediate assault on the Spanish host. The best defense was a good offense, and Ter-Grigoryants was determined to protect the western enclave of European communism to the best of his ability.
Spanish artillery firing upon the advancing communists.
The actual first shots of World War III occurred on the Portuguese-Spanish border. A sharp hour-long barrage of artillery and mustard gas paralyzing the Spanish defenders, Warsaw Pact troops launched a three prong offensive backed up by significant air cover (the Soviet Air Force managed to destroy most of the Spanish airborne radar coverage, giving them air superiority over the Iberian skies for the opening assault). One prong moved directly north to capture Vigo and Santiago de Compostela, the second (including the most powerful Portuguese units) advanced on Badajoz to open up an assault on Castille, while the third (with the entire Soviet component) moved in a sickle maneuver to take Seville and cut off Cadiz. Reeling, the Spanish were knocked back on all fronts. In the north and Andalusia they managed to withdraw in good order, if bloodied, but Badajoz was a disaster that saw 30,000 soldiers end up surrendering after being cut off.
By the end of November, Galicia was largely in Portuguese control and Seville was on the frontlines, but Ter-Grigoryants deemed that both fronts were distractions. The sheer magnitude of the Spanish collapse in western Castille opened up an opportunity to advance to Madrid and capture Spain's largest city. If Madrid fell, it would essentially force NATO to tie down hundreds of thousands of troops that could make or break the more consequential battles to the east. Greenlighting the use of V-series nerve agents, Ter-Grigoryants ordered the Portuguese 1st Army back on the advance on November 29th while the Soviet Iberian Corps quickly smashed out of Andalusia towards Cordoba - and Toledo beyond it.
Within Spanish high command, Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez was close to a breakdown. The first leftist leader of Spain since the civil war, he had been elected initially in 1986 on a platform of lessening the militarism of the previous Falange/Falange-independent right coalition governments preceding him. The December Coup changed that, but the hyped military had nearly dissolved against the fierce Soviet/Portuguese invasion. With Toledo quickly being threatened, Gonzalez sacked the military leadership and placed the qualified and rabidly Francoist General Antonio Tejero in charge, but he knew reinforcements were needed. Luckily, they were forthcoming in the shape of 300,000 French soldiers and a new overall commander - one the Spanish accepted despite their pride.
Former President of the Council of France Jacques Massu.
Despite being eighty, Massu was in good health and itching to serve one last time for his country. The most decorated officer in the French Army still in shape to command, the disaster at Prague led Mitterrand to accept his offer to be the main French commander in the field. Colin Powell, clearly aware of the Spanish setbacks, appointed him commander of all NATO forces in Iberia. Taking control in Madrid with a determination and zeal for command not seen since Napoleon, Massu deemed that with the situation at hand, it would be best to let the enemy come. If they impaled themselves on Madrid's defenses, then a general collapse of Portugal could be achieved before Spring. He would keep his French reinforcements back around Madrid, while Tejero and the Spanish lured Ter-Grigoryants in.
On December 17th, Toledo fell to the Warsaw Pact blitzkreig. Aware of the French forces thanks to aerial reconnaissance (the air war now a draw due to the presence of French fighters), Ter-Grigoryants nevertheless ordered his forces into the fray. There was simply nowhere else to advance without more men except Cadiz, but the Spanish Navy had already left port and the capture of Seville rendered it a useless appendage. However, he would not advance into the city. Instead, artillery would turn the city to rubble while the Portuguese advanced through the outer towns - then he would use his Soviet forces to break through and surround NATO. The battle began in earnest on the 20th, Massu authorizing French chemical stockpiles to answer the Soviets in kind. Most of the city was evacuated, but enough remained to leave Madrid a charnel house of death and maiming as the armies clashed. Slowly, bloodily, the Portuguese advanced and cleared out town after town. The French committed themselves and on the 11th of January, so did the Soviets.
Breaking through at Arganda del Rey, Soviet forces advanced quickly but were met by a surprise Massu had left in reserve. Joining a French armored division in the counterattack were 30,000 fresh troops - Portuguese troops. Fresh from Luanda were two divisions of the Free Portuguese Army under the Lion of Angola, General Kaulza de Arriaga. Fighting with a zeal to reclaim their homeland, they smashed into the exhausted Soviets and forced them back, part of a general assault all along the line devised by the aging French commander. Seeing no other choice other than being crushed by the NATO armored pincers, Ter-Grigoryants ordered a withdrawal to better defensive lines around Toledo. Madrid was left a ruined city, but with the Spanish flag still fluttering tall above it.
Reeling from their defeat, the Soviet and Portuguese commanders plotted a smaller offensive to capture Cadiz and Gibraltar before going fully to the defensive when disaster struck. The US Navy was enraged from its defeat at the Norwegian Sea. Humiliated by the RUSSIANS of all people, not a traditional naval superpower, the Atlantic fleet now under Vice Admiral John S. McCain's command was itching for some payback. On the Winter Equinox, 2,500 marines landed on the Azores, liberating it from communist control. This was just the appetizer, followed up by the main course. Just a week after the defeat at Madrid, a carrier battle fleet of four US ships (the Richard M. Nixon, Oriskany, Theodore Roosevelt, and Enterprise) launched a massive strike on the Portuguese coast, backed up by over one hundred B-52 bombers out of the American East Coast. The Portuguese SAM defenses were decimated by Wild Weasel suppressor aircraft out of Lajes and the Canary Islands, paving the way for the aircraft to cripple much of the Metropole's defenses over the course of a week.
Essentially having Communism foisted on them since the fateful 1975 election, the Portuguese people were at the end of their tether. Only generous aid from the USSR and the presence of a powerful secret police under Cunhal kept them in line, and with their sons dying in a war essentially no one wanted, the population began to rise against their government. Poverty, economic stagnation, and war led them to the streets, and Cunhal was forced to pull troops from the frontlines to keep order. Massu saw this opportunity and launched the February offensive. Toledo was recaptured on the 7th, Seville two days later, many Portuguese units defecting to Arriaga's burgeoning force. The Soviets were surrounded at Merida on the 25th, Ter-Grigoryants surrendering on the 1st of March. Finally, a mass of civilians and mutinying soldiers stormed the Communist Party headquarters in Lisbon. Cunhal was found and lynched in the streets along with many of the party leadership. Imprisoned dissident Mario Soares, released from jail, took control of the government and accepted Massu's demand for unconditional surrender.
On the Ides of March, Arriaga's forces entered Lisbon to a hero's welcome, the streets lined with cheering civilians. It was said that every soldier's pack teemed with flowers, and they and the Franco-Spanish host that followed them had no shortage of warm beds with eager women enthusiastic to reward their liberators. The American and other western press trumpeted the victory to the skies, President Rumsfeld relieved to no end for some good news. From Luanda, Prime Minister Francisco de Costa Gomes set in motion the long-awaited plan to transfer back to Lisbon, but for now the Metropole would be managed by a NATO military governor. Massu, having won the only major victory against Warsaw Pact in the war's early stages, was transferred to Germany eager to fight the Russian horde threatening his country.
For the Soviet Union, most expected this and counted the damage to Spain (essentially the crippling of much of its army and industrial base) as a major victory. However, a silent tempest was inadvertently created. Essentially having sent an army of Muslims and Armenians to wither and die, discontent began to brew in the outlying republics. It wasn't anything but discontent at this point, but seeds were planted that the Politburo would soon reap.